Traveling the Path to Publication – Also Known as Editing Hell

books

Hello Precious Readers!

I know, it’s been months since I’ve contacted you. Thank you for continuing to subscribe, or pop by to read my words, as randomly placed here on WordPress as they are. Your patronage is humbling and makes me feel a little bit better about myself each day. (Ha ha.) And, lucky you, that’s a great thing! Look at the new style! Enjoying the new digs? I am. I thought the previous motif was good, but a little too serious for my style. Style is important, whether formal/traditional, goofy/whimsical, or airy/uplifting. I went with goofy/whimsical with a touch of airy/uplifting. What do you think?

There has been a lot of work occurring behind the scenes. Hopefully my lack of social interaction with you via blog should show how diligently I’ve been working towards my goal of becoming published and succeeding… TWICE! I’ve now crossed the threshold into a new group of people … Authors published multiple times over!

That’s right! Trifecta Publishing House liked my work so much they contracted me for 3 BOOKS TOTAL for the “Roxy Summers Mystery Series.” That means more great books for you! Even better, last week I sent in my manuscript for CRUSH ON YOU, A Roxy Summers Mystery #2!  Yes, it’s a direct sequel, but it’s a standalone book. You do not need to read Book 1: CAPTURE ME to understand Book 2… although it helps a LOT.

If you’re a follower on Facebook and Twitter, you know that there’s a LOT of activity over there! And, why wouldn’t you? Check out Facebook and join my FB group: Katherine Bacher’s Happy Hour. There’s a LOT of funny memes and articles to share.

Life is funny. (Understatement of the year.) Immediately after making my announcement to family and friends that I’d signed my first book contract, I was greeted with a surprising amount of people immediately asking me, “How did you get published? [I, my friend, my sister, my cousin’s brother’s uncle, etc.] has been writing for years, but is constantly getting rejected/doesn’t know where to start!

I want you to know that my path of publication is an uncommon occurrence. I’m not a better writer than you. My story isn’t better than yours. I write in my corner of our bedroom/office, inside of my messy home, while the buzzer alerts me that I need to transfer my freshly washed laundry into the dryer. I’m just a former suburbanite who now lives in a semi-ghetto apartment in the Pacific Northwest who wrote my story, and submitted it to the publisher that I thought would best fit my genre and style of writing.

I’m not going to deny that I think my stories are good. I worked hard on them. I’m proud of them. I literally gave blood, sweat, and tears over my books. I firmly believe in the entertainment value of my stories and and believe they are worthy of sharing with the masses. There is a foundation level of self-confidence (or a friend/family member) required to send in your manuscript for open criticism.

 

Ready To Get Published

That being said, and I don’t know if I’ve written this here before, but I’ve lived by this rule:

DO YOUR RESEARCH.

That’s right… again. I’m throwing the big, angry, bolded, center-justified words at you. I’m going to write it again, in all caps: DO YOUR RESEARCH.

Writing your manuscript is not the only way you will need to prepare. I submitted my book to the right place, at the right time, with the right people, at the right time of the market. My story is one that is still considered a marketable and profitable genre of writing at this moment in time. The market may change. For now, it’s in my favor.

Submitting to the right publisher at the right time with the right genre of work can make or break you.

Submitting your work exactly to the publisher’s formatting requests can make or break you.

Make sure your manuscript is as clean and error-free as possible.

The hard truth is, many publishing companies will not look beyond the first page if their formatting requests have not been met, or the manuscript is riddled with poor grammar, spelling, and/or punctuation.

Imagine your day is spent reading. Every minute of every hour of the business day is reading. You are not only expected to read, but to read quickly. You need to get through X amount of manuscripts per week.

Aha! A new manuscript! Yea! Wait… the font is too small for my tired eyes. It’s not double-spaced allowing me open areas to write notes. It didn’t follow the margin requirements, making it difficult to find where I last left off from reading.

This equals to: Manuscript is thrown out.

When a project is so close to home, you won’t catch everything. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best writer in the world. No matter what you do, there will be typos. I’m formally trained as an editor/journalist, but I won’t catch everything within my own Work In Progress (WIP). There are things in Book 1 I wish I had caught before it went to print, and it went through at least 4 additional editing stages after submission. And I re-wrote it 8 times before submission. Have a trusted close one (friend, family member), who won’t leak your story out to the world beforehand, or if you plan to self-publish, spend the money to hire a professional editor.

Now, let’s say you’ve followed the rules. Your manuscript is shiny and new, and POLISHED! You’ve done your research and you found it. This is the one! This is the publisher I need to be with!

Make sure the publisher is accepting your genre at the time of submission.

The publisher’s website says they are not looking to publish works of your written genre. You think: I’m going to submit my book anyway!

This equals to: Manuscript is thrown out.

This process has been a whirlwind, and I’d like to point out to fellow not-quite-yet-published-authors that the process normally doesn’t happen this way. After several discussions and advice I’ve received over the many, many years (I won’t declare exactly how many years), this piece of knowledge was drilled into my brain:

Be prepared for rejection.

Hundreds and hundreds of letters of rejection.

Then, maybe, you might get a request for the full manuscript…

Followed by another rejection.

Hundreds more of rejection letters, you might get published.

Precious Reader (and fellow writer, storyteller, scribe, etc.), this is not to discourage you. It is to bring you to reality. I have attended several conferences over the years, and received responses from authors who answered the same question I’m now being asked. “How did you get published?”

9/10 traditionally published authors will tell you they were rejected several times over before obtaining their first contract.

I’m not a special case, though my experience was highly abnormal. But, I went back to Rule #1: I did my research.

I will tell you right now, and if you’re a longtime follower of this blog, you know this already, I am not a social person. I don’t enjoy social engagements, I barely tolerate my own friends. They’re amazing, wonderful, talented, skillful, kinder than I’ll ever be, and funny people. I’m unfortunately, not great with social interaction. My self-loathing goes soul deep. That being said, I go out of my way to do the best that I am capable of at making personal connections. Personal relationships are important. Whatever your level of comfort for social interaction, it’s important to have social interaction of some kind in your life.

This includes business connections. I was fortunate enough to attend writer’s conferences and make connections with people. They’re talented writers, authors, editors, publishers, and everything else in between. Conferences are GOLD.

A few years ago, I made a connection with the fabulous Lori Lyn. A woman who rocks a wide-brimmed hat and ultra heels like like they’re water and air, unlike any other woman I’ve ever met. You know, it’s a real shame that hats have gone out of style, excluding the semi-ghetto “trucker hat” phenomenon, which I’ll never understand. I suppose I’m too old. I wish I could wear fabulous hats. Unfortunately, I have a gigantic, Charlie Brown-like, pumpkin head, which makes hats of a suitable size impossible for me. Unless it’s a beanie. But, I digress. She and I met at Emerald City Writer’s Conference in Bellevue, WA, an annual conference that is the biggest romance writer’s conference on the West Coast. We connected, I thought she was hilarious, and she actually got me to speak out loud. She handed me a business card, indicating she was starting up her own publishing company.

I held onto that card like a drowning man to a life vest.

Two years later, I finished what would turn into my first published book, CAPTURE ME. In all of that time, I kept a sharp eye on Trifecta Publishing House, to ensure that my style of writing might find a home with them. They were accepting my genre. They were accepting my style. The stars aligned. It was good planning, writing with the best of my ability, and good execution of the characters and story inside of my head.

There were still typos, but my research, time, and relationship nurturing had paid off. Which is good. Lori not only turned out to be an amazing friend and mentor over the years, but after pitching my idea to her, she was eager to read it.

Even after signing the contract, the confidence within myself was minimal. It took two author events and her telling flat out to my face that I was a good writer, that I actually started to believe it.

Some people have confidence. I have a Type-A, detail-oriented, obsess-over-every-little-thing, “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,” type of attitude. This ended up working in my favor by careful planning, and trying my absolute best.

Could I have been rejected? ABSOLUTELY, COMPLETELY, AND HIGHLY POSSIBLE!

If I hadn’t paid attention to their submission requests, my manuscript, as wonderful and amazing as I thought and hoped it would be, might have ended up in the trash bin. (Either physical or electronic, again, depending on your publisher’s requested formatting requirements for physical or electronic copies of your WIP.)

“It’s not you, it’s me.”
“It’s just plain, ol’ bad timing.”

Perhaps the publisher is looking for your genre of writing. But, they receive such an influx and flooding of submissions, they have to cutoff somewhere. Like applying for college or trade schools. There are only so many manuscripts a publisher can do in a single year.

Maybe your work hits all of the criteria, but it’s too controversial at that point in time. We live in an amazing era and country. Free speech is an incredible freedom to have. That being said, a publisher has to take into account risk. If your work happens to be a controversial topic, or a controversial opinion about the topic, the world may not be ready for you… yet.

Sometimes biding your time and taking a socio-economical temperature check can make a world of difference between publication, and sitting in a corner while holding your manuscript and crying. And I’ve done that. With a book that will never see the light of day.

For those who have struggled, have you considered self-publishing?

One of the biggest changes in publishing history was the invention of self-publishing. A concept that isn’t new (look at Benjamin Franklin), but was never so mainstream as it has been in the last 15 years. If you had asked me 15 years ago if I’d read the work of someone who was “self-published,” and I would’ve responded with, “Huh?” For those who had heard of self-publishing at that time, it came with highly negative connotations.

American publishing used to consist of these big powerhouses all based in the New York, and what they said was the “end all, be all” of publishing. Once stigma of self-publishing wore off, there was a power shift. Now writers/authors, could get their work closer to your hot little hands.

Nowadays, many authors are what we call “hybrids.” They are traditionally published in one genre of writing, and self-published in another genre.

Imagination

Here is the simplified breakdown of my best explanation between the two:

Traditional Publishing

PROS:

Branding. You have a big brand name behind you. You will be branded and marketed across all platforms.

Exposure. With a big brand name comes the exposure of tons of readers to your book and name. Your readers have the confidence knowing the book didn’t “come from nowhere.” Your publisher will have a larger budget, dependent on your book, to market your book across all types of platforms.

Most Likely – Higher Sales. If your publisher is a big name, you will most likely get a lot of sales, quickly, compared to self-publication.

Less Cost. Publishers handle all of the costs of publication, instead of you paying straight out of pocket.

CONS:

Contracts. You need to be savvy, or know someone savvy, in legal-ese. The legal language that can make or break you. Often, traditional publishing contracts will include a “right of first refusal” for any future works you write, whether it is the same genre or different genre. It will depend on your negotiating skills, and how you foresee your own future in writing.

Your characters are no longer your own. Yes, you heard that correctly. Unless you have an incredibly giving publisher, or a crack shot of a lawyer, your characters now belong to the publisher. This includes if you pass away, break your contract, etc., the characters belong to the publisher for as long of a period your book/series is contracted for. This can be a few years, to decades, depending on the language of your contract. (Refer back to “Contracts” above.)

Little to No Control. You have little to no say about what the cover will look like, the font style, font on the front and back covers of your book, if your picture will be on the back, etc. You will have little to no control as to the pricing of your book, and little to no control of when sales occur.

I’ve heard several times over from authors traditionally published, where they’ll notice a book that has been “out there” for say, 3 years, suddenly get a spike in sales. When they ask their publisher about it, the publisher replies something along the lines of, “Oh, for 24-48 hours, your book was $0.99!” To which, the author says, “Well, that’s great, but I wish I’d known about it sooner so I could’ve told family and friends, marketed it on my blog/website/social media.” It ends up being a ‘too bad, so sad’ moment for them that they missed out on advertising their book being on sale to more potential readers.

Self-Publishing

PROS:

Full Control. The world is your oyster, just as your book all yours. From the editing, the formatting, the cover design, how it’s marketed, everything.

CONS:

Full Control. I will warn you, self-publishing is not an easy road. You must be highly business savvy to navigate the winding road of self publishing. You are in charge of all of the design, photos, graphic design skills, finding a book printer, etc. needed to produce your book. This means $$$. Each and every little thing makes me think “ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching” out of pocket. For many, this is not as affordable as they once thought.

This also means that marketing and promotion are completely in your hands. You set the price, you create and launch your own advertising, you monitor your own sales. This means if you are not someone who is highly business savvy, not a self-starter, not motivated to finish projects that you start, this may not be the path for you.

You are your biggest cheerleader. What do I mean? I mean, that you are submitting your book to the masses. I’m paraphrasing, but someone once explained it to me as this: Imagine you are ready to share your book with the world. Now, you are standing on a box with a bullhorn on a street corner, holding your book out in front of the faces of all who pass by. You are asking hard working Americans to part with their hard-earned paycheck, to dedicate 12 hours of their lives to reading your work. So what is your idea, pitch, and hook to get the passers by to part with their cash if they’ve never heard of you? Ask yourself if you’re business savvy enough to convince that person to fork over $12.99 for your book, on your sole word alone, that it’s awesome?

This is not meant to discourage you from self-publishing. It is meant to be an eye opener to how much work you will be doing. Marketing is a 24-hour job. You need confidence, strategy, a keen eye in spotting opportunities, and being a self-starter. Even with my own publisher, I get reminders to participate in contests, offer free books at conferences, Tweet at least twice a day (even though all who follow me on Twitter know that I post far more than twice a day), and to keep my Facebook profile active. Get on Goodreads. And I don’t even have to worry about a majority of the business side of things.

I am not a numbers person. I’m Asian, but I’m not that Asian. Anyone who knows me, understands that math hurts my brain.

Q: Why did you choose Traditional Publishing?

A: Well, I sort of did. I’m with what’s called a “boutique publisher,” yes, Trifecta Publishing House is a boutique publishing house. It’s a print on demand, and a smaller company. Think of it as the “mini me” of the big publishers. So, I am traditionally published, just not at the same scale as Penguin, or Random House, or its other brethren. As Trifecta Publishing House grows, (which it is definitely expanding the number of authors it is accepting at this time), it may change, but as a first-time published author, I’m enjoying being part of our growing family.

In conclusion, the world is an amazing place, and time can shift all things. Opinions and ideas are as fluid and dynamic as the people who shape them. Don’t give up hope. If you believe your work is meant for the masses.

There are many, many other ways to be published. Some use WordPress and keep blogs to post chapter by chapter for free. There are tons of websites that allow you to put your work out there. You don’t need to be published to share your work with the world. Heck, I’ve written this blog for years, long before I dreamed up Roxy Summers.

If you have your WIP and it’s almost ready to go, or you’re finished and looking for your new publishing family, or pioneering out on your own to self publish, don’t give up hope. The gal who wrote P.S. I love you, was 19 years old when she wrote that story. Some people are first-time published at the age of 65 because retirement gave them the freedom to write. I spent 30 years of my life working towards this goal. I’m older than 30, but don’t wish to share the exact number with you. But, I digress again.

For more information about different types of publishing, I recommend this article by The Future of Ink.

Good luck to you, and as always. I am in no way an expert, nor the “end all, be all” final word of how this works. But, writing is a field where your competitor is also your biggest ally. We’re a supportive bunch who love sharing our craft with others and to help stimulate creativity within your own work.

Share your publishing journey!

What were your struggles? Successes?

What’s the toughest hurdle you’ve encountered on the path to publication?

Do you have better advice?

sharing the wealth, spreading the love

Ok, so I’m a big freaking coward.

Today I did it.

Yesterday, after posting my third blog entry, I hesitated.

If you haven’t noticed, I tend to be scared shitless. A lot. I guess that’s what happens when a facet of you is so personal, and yet not widely accepted as “Ok.” After saying I was going to share this with the world, I didn’t. Today, I had the bravery to move forward with opening my so-called ‘dark side’ to my friends and (some) family, along with fellow writers I’ve been fortunate to meet in my life (whether they were former classmates or favorite authors).

I have been a member of the RWA and GSRWA for over a year now. For those not familiar with the initialisms above, they are the Romance Writers of America and the Greater Seattle Romance Writers of America, the (if you haven’t already guessed) Greater Seattle chapter of the group.

To show that there is a business side to this type of writing, and to prove it’s not just a fleeting, romantic notion, (pun? Get it? Too soon?), I suggest educating yourself with some cold hard math from the RWA’s website.  Or, as one of my all-time favorite romance writers, Katie MacAlister would say, “I point out that romances comprise over half of the mass market paperback market, and that what’s good enough for authors like Nora Roberts and Janet Evanovitch is good enough for me. And then I smile. Knowingly.

Review the stats, let me know what you think. Did you find anything surprising?

Also, consider all of those romantic comedies or romantic dramas you watch. I’ll bet you several, if not most, of them were based on a novel. Look at Nicholas Sparks. He’s made a living writing romance, and most have been turned into mass-marketed films. I’ll bet you’ve even seen one. The Notebook or A Walk To Remember, anyone?

What are some of your favorite romantic films?

My ultimate favorite romantic film is “Sabrina” with Harrison Ford. Mmm Harrison Ford. Yummy. Although I have a soft spot for Bogey and have a huge respect for Audrey Hepburn, the modernized version had music and scenery to die for.

Even if my blog isn’t your cup of tea, I wanted to share some of my favorite websites, blogs and forums that I frequent. Not (completely) on a daily basis.  Ok, maybe daily.

  1. Romance the Genres
  2. Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
  3. Romantic Geek Girl
  4. Book Chic City

These are real people, with real lives, all sharing a common interest. Like cooking or knitting. Ok, way sexier and hotter than cooking or knitting, but I’m sure in one of my future novels I’ll find a way to make those entertainingly sexy.

And below to stretch my literary mind:

Daily Writing Challenge

Day 3: Think about the character you created for Day 2. Write their seven-word biography.

 What happens when you live life twice?